Harvest season is here, which means farm equipment on Indiana roads. This time of year it’s fairly common to come upon slow mowing tractors and combines. As a motorist, keep in mind that in Indiana, farm equipment has as much of a right to be on the road as you do in your automobile. It’s also important to remember that farmers will pull over when practicable to let traffic pass. Patience is key to safety when encountering farm equipment on roads. While patience is key, it’s also helpful to think through how most tractor vs automobile collisions occur.
- Rear ending farm equipment: This is the most common type of farm equipment collision. If a car is traveling at 55 mph and it comes upon a tractor moving at 15 mph, it will only take 5 seconds to close a football field length gap between the car and the tractor. Keep your eyes out for the slow moving vehicle (SMV) triangle. This is not simply a reflector to identify the presence of a tractor, but also serves as a warning to immediately slow down. Any farm equipment traveling slower than 25 mph is required by Indiana law to have an SMV emblem. If you see the SMV triangle, don’t wait to start slowing down.
- Left turn collisions: This type of collision occurs when the car behind slow moving farm equipment begins to pass, only to find that the farm equipment is making a left hand turn. Sometimes motorists think that the farm equipment is moving off the right side of the road to let motorists pass, when actually the farm equipment is preparing to make a wide left turn into a narrow drive. Keys to avoiding this type of incident include not passing until you are sure the farm equipment is not slowing just to make a left turn. Also, if you are unsure about the intentions of the farm equipment in front of you, sound your horn before you pass to make sure the farmer knows you’re there. Additionally, don’t pass near a farm building or farm field entrance. Most likely, the farm equipment is slowing to make a turn.
- Crossroad collisions: Here, motorists must remember that farm equipment is not made to accelerate quickly. If you see a tractor or combine sitting at an intersection and about to pull out, then go ahead and slow down before reaching the intersection. While farmers try to avoid pulling out and slowing oncoming traffic, sometimes it’s unavoidable. If a piece of farm machinery does pull out in front of you at an intersections, don’t react in haste by accelerating to immediately pass. Instead, slow down and wait to assess a safe time to pass.
Hopefully, keeping these simple tips in mind should help everyone stay safe on the roads as farmer’s harvest their crops this season.
Wilson Kehoe Winingham brings you this information with best regards for you and your family’s safety.